Government backs linking Aadhaar, PAN

Decision aimed at curbing use of fake PAN cards, attorney-general tells SC.

New Delhi: The Centre on Tuesday strongly defended before the Supreme Court the law linking Aadhaar card with PAN cards, saying it was done to curb the use of fake PAN cards across the country.

Making this submission before a bench of Justices A.K. Sikri and Ashok Bhusha, Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi said Aadhaar was very essential when the country was witnessing all round progress, especially technologically. It was an essential requirement to keep pace with the growth. Rejecting the charge that making Aadhaar mandatory violated an individual’s right to privacy, the A-G said the privacy concerns regarding Aadhaar were “wholly misplaced” and asked “what do you want? A vacuum? It cannot be like that. An individual has a social contract with the state under which no constituent can say that I don’t want to be identified.

The A-G said that the programme of PAN had become suspect as it could be faked while Aadhaar is a “secure and robust” system by which the identity of an individual cannot be faked. The A-G said that due to Aadhaar, government has saved over Rs 50,000 crore on the schemes to benefit the poor as well as the pension schemes.

He said that around 10 lakh PAN cards have been cancelled, while out of the 113.7 crore Aadhaar cards issued, no case of duplication has been found by the government. He also said that Aadhaar was an effective tool to check the menace of terror funding and circulation of black money. He said a biometric identification system was an essential feature of contemporary society, and dismissed privacy concerns surrounding the unique ID number.

The apex court is hearing three petitions challenging the constitutional validity of Section 139 AA of the Income-Tax Act which was introduced through the latest budget and the Finance Act 2017.

Section 139AA provides for mandatory quoting of Aadhaar or enrolment ID of Aadhaar application form for filing of income tax returns and making an application for allotment of PAN number with effect from July 1 this year.

The petitions were filed by Binoy Vishwam, a senior Communist Party of India leader, Bezwada Wilson, a dalit rights activist, and S.G. Vombatkere, a retired Army officer. Mr Datar along with senior counsel Shyam Divan contended that making Aadhaar mandatory is a complete violation of of right to equality and the information of the individual is sought to be forcefully obtained by the State machineries by negating the requirement of consent, by making the consequences of non-enrollment drastic.

They also argued that the Government cannot indirectly make Aadhaar mandatory through Income Tax Act.Eom.

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